By Caitlin Hamstra
Have you ever wondered what life is like for international high school students in the United States? Everybody has different experiences: Some students live in residence halls, some with host families. Some students live in big cities, others in rural locations. Some students participate in lots of activities, such as sports and clubs, while others focus on classes and only one or two activities. However diverse international students’ experiences are, it can be helpful to see one student’s experience to get a sense of what life is like for international high school students in the U.S.
Meet Elizabeth. She is a senior from South Korea, currently studying at O'Gorman High School, a private Catholic high school in South Dakota, USA. She lives with a host family, which has a mom, a dad, and a dog. Here is a look at what a typical Tuesday looks like for her:
I woke up, brushed my teeth, washed my face, and got dressed for school. I checked my backpack one more time for anything I forgot.
I went upstairs to eat yogurt with fruit for breakfast.
My friend gave me a ride to school. She gives me a ride to and from school every day of the week, and it usually takes about 15 minutes each way. Once we arrive at school, we chat in the car for a while until it is time to go in.
My friend and I got out of the car and walked to school. We normally use the main entrance.
My first period class this semester is English. I am taking English IV, and we are currently working on a Persuasive Research Essay. I chose the topic, “Animals in Zoos.” I am arguing that animals should not be kept in zoos, because the violation of the rights of individual animals cannot be justified, even in efforts to fend off extinction. Our homework is to find 15 sources by the time we return to school next week after our 5-day spring break.
For the second period, I have my first Study Hall of the dya. I organized the proposition and opposition sides’ arguments regarding my topic for the English paper.
My third period class is one of my favorite classes, and it is Spanish. I am taking Spanish II this year, and it has been wonderful so far. I have always been interested in learning about new languages and cultures, and this trait of mine has helped me tremendously with immersing myself in the materials that we study in class. We watched The Book of Life, an animated fantasy comedy film which follows a bullfighter who, on the Day of the Dead, embarks on a crazy afterlife journey to fulfill the expectations of his beloved family and friends.
Fourth period is my lunch period. I eat with my friends and usually have salad and fruit. Sometimes, I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as well.
I have another Study Hall for the fifth period. During this one, I continued researching my English paper topic.
My sixth period class is Modern Saints. Today, we watched a 20-minute video about the Stations of the Cross. We wrote down what happened in each station and what stood out to us or was interesting to us.
My seventh period class — U.S. Government — is another one of my favorite classes. International relations and politics have long been a huge interest of mine, and I was thrilled to finally be taking this class for the second semester. We learned about the 14th Amendment today, which concerns Due Process and Equal Protection. We were put into groups and made to discuss different Supreme Court cases, come up with a Legal Question, and determine the Court’s Holding.
My eighth and last period class is Graphics. This class is definitely the most fun, as it involves and requires a lot of creativity. We started something called Artist March Madness “Final Four.” This is the art version of March Madness Final Four, which refers to the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Final Four. We had to choose which artwork we liked more throughout the West, East, South, and Midwest regions, narrowing them down to the “Final Four” artists. Our homework is to write four separate paragraphs about why we chose each of the four artists as our “Final Four.” We also had to choose the winner between the “Final Four” and write a fifth and final paragraph about why we chose that specific artist.
School ends at 3:20 p.m. sharp every day. My friend and I walked to her truck, and she drove me home.
At home, I put down my backpack and changed into more comfortable clothes. I gave myself about an hour of free time before I started doing my homework.
Homework time. I gathered some more information about my topic for the English paper. I also memorized some new Spanish vocabulary for the chapter that we are going to be starting next week. In my Study Guide for U.S. Government textbook, I also filled out the first page of chapters 15 & 16.
I had supper of vegetable soup with toasted bread with my host parents.
I took a the shower, which is my favorite part of the day, because it is always refreshing and rejuvenating to take a warm shower after a long day!
I watched an episode of Stranger Things and an episode of Bridgerton. They are currently two of my favorite shows on Netflix.
I talked with my parents back in South Korea through Skype.
I listened to some music and went to bed.
This look at Elizabeth’s day is just a peek into her life in the United States. At her high school, students go to school from 8:05 a.m. until 3:20 p.m., with lunch half-way through the day. Some students at her school eat at school while others go off campus to have lunch. The main classes for students in the U.S. are English, science, social science, and math. Students’ other classes during the day are filled with electives, such as languages, fine arts, business, career, and technical classes. All students at Elizabeth’s school are able to choose their electives, and she chose Spanish and Graphic Arts.
Not all schools and experiences in the U.S. are the same, just like not all schools and experiences are the same in your country. Everybody lives a little bit differently, which is one of the reasons why we love to study abroad!